3 Top Tips on picking a new agency in the new year

It’s January and many clients’ thoughts will soon turn to the year ahead. Often, this is when a decision is made to call a pitch, evaluate different agencies and choose one to work with for the next couple of years (at least!)

Based on my experience running pitches for clients over the last 3 years, here are my top 3 tips on making the process a productive one that results in a positive partnership rather than a war of attrition.

  1. Be clear what kind of agency you need

I’m amazed at how many clients appoint a generalist agency when most of their money is behind spent behind specialist skills. There is a huge reluctance at most clients to split their assignment across agencies and in their search for a single point of contact, clients end up giving a generalist agency control of the entire budget. The money you save on dealing directly with specialists will more than justify the cost of hiring an internal person to manage them. If most of your money is going into performance marketing or e-commerce or a single medium, work with a specialist.

2. Be clear what kind of relationship you want with your agency

Are they a low-cost supplier, key execution expert or a true strategy partner? This is what will drive their KPIs, the team you ask for and the skillsets you need. If their key role is driving business success for you, don’t tie them down with detailed spreadsheets of cost commitments – build a framework where your interests are aligned and you can get the best out of your agency.

3. Be clear how you’re going to evaluate agencies during and after the pitch

A lot of times, clients don’t do a good job of setting up evaluation criteria and getting people with the right levels of knowledge to then score the agency on them. I’ve seen situations where the finance / procurement team has the same number of votes on media strategy as the marketing and media team – which, with all due respect to the finance function, makes zero sense. Set up a proper scheme of what criteria you’re using, what weights are attached to them and which individuals / functions score on each criterion.

You’ll notice all those points start with the words “be clear”. That’s not a coincidence. Lack of clarity is a malaise affecting many areas of business and the gentle art of partner selection is definitely one of them.

With over 30 years experience managing agencies, ad-tech startups and consulting Sriram has a deep understanding of how media and ad-tech services work, especially in China. Most recently, he’s had experience managing pitches for over 20 clients in the last 3 years. Reach out to him for input and advice on how to define and select your marketing services partners in China

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